Does It Feel Like Your Child Is Pushing You Away?
Are you struggling to connect with your child or believe that he or she feels little to no connection to you? If your child is older, does it seem like he or she could care less if you are present or not? Is he or she extremely self-focused, losing friends or creating family conflicts? If your child is younger, do you feel like your parent/child bond isn’t what it’s supposed to be? Is your child adopted, or did you or your child experience a trauma that may have disrupted your ability to bond? Are you feeling helpless, frustrated and extremely sad? Are you perpetually exhausted, feeling like everyday is an uphill battle to forge some semblance of a connection and family harmony? Do you constantly wonder where you went wrong or if connecting with your child is possible at all?
A lack of a strong parent/child attachment can be a heartbreaking and highly frustrating experience. A shaky bond can be caused by a multitude of factors. Attachment issues can arise if you adopted your child. It can happen with mothers who experienced an emotional disconnection after giving birth or had very high levels of stress throughout pregnancy. It can also occur if your child experienced a traumatic event at a young age, or if you underwent a trauma that made connecting difficult during a critical developmental time for your child. Difficulties you may have experienced growing up could also have an effect on present-day relationships now with your own child. Regardless if one of the above issues is relevant to your situation, struggling to create a parent/child bond can be a very emotional and distressing experience.
Many Families Struggle with Attachment Issues
Science shows us that attachment and love are basic needs – right up there with eating and breathing. Insomuch, attachment is connected to all of our interactions with other people and how we view ourselves. If there was a disruption in your child’s young life where they may not have had someone to emotionally be there at the level they needed; you may later see behaviors connected to lower self-esteem, or questioning a sense of security and trust in relationships and the world around them. If your child was adopted, you can almost expect that at some point in your child’s life they will be testing whether you will truly be there for them. Attachment difficulties can be found in step or blended families because the people and life children are accustomed to can be changing. There are many factors that can contribute to a lack of an attachment and a wide spectrum of how severe the problem may be. Thankfully, attachment disorders are increasingly receiving more attention in the therapeutic community. And, with the right therapist and a commitment to investing in the work, you can create a deeper bond with your child.
Therapy Can Help Strengthen Your Connection With Your Child
Therapy can be extremely effective for families with children who are struggling with attachment issues – especially if you begin the therapeutic work early and find the right therapist for you and your child.
Your BPS therapist is an expert in counseling for child attachment issues, and can help you identify and breakdown the blocks that are keeping you and your child from developing a closer bond. Building trust is imperative, and sometimes simple techniques, such as spending uninterrupted time in play with your child – can help strengthen a connection. Your BPS therapist can also help you figure out the root causes of the attachment difficulties and provide you with other strategies to build a strong and secure relationship with your child. You’ll also get insights into creating and maintaining boundaries for older children and ways to connect with younger ones. Essentially, with help, you and your child can create the building blocks necessary to strengthen your relationship. You can move into the future with a better understanding of how to connect to and relate with each other.
Regardless of your child’s age, there is always the opportunity to develop new pathways and connections. Provided that you are willing, patient and find the right therapist, you can overcome roadblocks anddevelop a healthier attachment with your child.
But, you still may have questions and concerns…
I’m afraid that regardless of what we try that my child will never be able to connect with me because of his or her past.
Attachment issues are very common in children who have been adopted or experienced a trauma early in life. Parenting a child with a disrupted attachment requires a different set of parenting skills. A therapist can help you add the appropriate tools to your parenting toolbox. With help and time, it’s entirely possible to secure or strengthen an attachment. While there’s no quick fix, building a stronger relationship with your child is possible and can be a joyous journey.
I’m worried that I did something to cause this or that it’s too late to create a bond with my child.
External factors such as blending families, adoption, high levels of stress, depression or anxiety post-partum could each contribute to a disruption in the attachment relationship. Attachment challenges are not something anyone plans, and it’s not too late to establish a stronger bond with your child. There are many things that you can do right now to develop or strengthen that connection, which will help you further build your relationship for many years yet to come.
Children are resilient and their brains can create new attachment pathways. With the help of a BPS therapist, you can learn what healthy attachment looks and feels like while you gain the tools to develop a secure bond with your child.
I think that my child and I could really benefit from therapy, but I’m concerned about costs.
This is your child’s and your life and well-being. Addressing attachment issues now may prevent a host of problems from occurring as your child enters new developmental stages, such as adolescence. Investing in their ability to connect now can lead to both immediate and long-term results. It can also increase opportunities for your child to form meaningful relationships and support all aspects of their development as they age.
Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with children’s attachment issues or who they or their child couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct a referral assessment and match you with a therapist who is trained and experienced to treat attachment issues and whose personality is a good match for you and your child. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to your child, yourself and your family may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine really connecting with your child now and in the long-term on a regular basis and ask yourself what that’s worth.
If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find other lower cost resources in the community.
We encourage you to schedule a referral assessment with a BPS therapist, trained by BPS Director, Dr. Jan Hittelman. We will work with you to determine what your child’s specific issues are and ensure a good match between you, your child and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.
You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and your child with a therapist who has expertise working with children and attachment issues.
BPS therapist Jennifer Key, LCSW helped create the content for this page.
Jenny is a licensed clinical social worker who has been working with families on attachment issues since 1999. Jenny practices traditional therapy methods, such as psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral techniques, but has also found that many children experience significant, positive change while interacting with animals. Jenny’s practice includes equine and animal therapies.